Peru 2008: Chucuito and visit to a farm/Lake Titicaca

July 3, 2008

We are comfortably accommodated in the Taypikala Hotel Lago, with a view of Lake Titicaca. We slept well and didn’t have to rush: we were able to have a leisurely breakfast this morning, as late as 8:00 a.m.!

Taypikala hotel chucuito

Today was a very interesting day! We started out at 9:00 am, very late for us – nice! We had an assistant guide today named Edgar, who is from Puno. His English is not nearly as good as Boris’s, and he was sometimes hard to understand, but he used a lot of illustration and gestures to get his point across.


 He told us a little about the history of Chucuito, this town we’re staying in. Some of the houses around here look unfinished, with bars sticking out the top. This is intentional! As long as they are unfinished, the owner doesn’t have to pay taxes on them, so they’re often left this way. 

Raw00992My husband took this picture of the “unfinished” houses.

chucuito house

chucuito houses(Note: I did NOT take these pictures of Chucuito houses; I downloaded them from the Internet).

We walked to the central square with its topiary garden, and Edgar was saying something that I didn’t catch because my camera was malfunctioning.


 Topiary figuresRaw00999 Raw01000 Raw01001 Raw01002

However, one thing he pointed out was a brick building off to the left of the square, where he said the Spanish printed money for the entire Viceroyalty of Peru, so Chucuito became known as the place of money.


Sundial in central square of Chucuito


He also talked about education. We passed an elementary school, where children are provided with meals, and we also stepped into the courtyard of a high school.


Students are on a one-week winter break right now. He said that the people in this region of Puno are among the poorest in the country (2nd poorest), but that the state of Puno is very rich in natural resources. Therefore, the government has money to help poor students. If children in elementary school can’t afford uniforms and books, the government will pay for them; however, they will NOT do this for secondary students.


Chucuito schoolchildren

Chucuito schoolchildren

In today’s local paper, Correo, there’s an article about high school students receiving free laptop computers (I think sponsored by Apple), which he showed us later on the bus. Apparently the Puno government will provide each student with a new, slim laptop that runs on solar energy, since many homes don’t have electricity. The students can keep these for an entire school year. Teachers will also get a more deluxe model, which they only have to pay a nominal fee to use for a year.

We then visited the Temple of the Fertility God, right across from our hotel. This Inca ruin contains a courtyard full of phallic symbols, some pointing upward, some downward.

These stones represent the male sex organ. Some point upward toward the sun god, some downward toward "Pachamama" (mother earth).

These stones represent the male sex organ. Some point upward toward the sun god, some downward toward “Pachamama” (mother earth).

My son flanked by male fertility stones.

My son flanked by male fertility stones.


Boris and a local guide explain this fertility temple.

Boris and a local guide explain this fertility temple.

This little angel is embedded in a rock behind one of the phallic stones. My guess is it was added after the conquest, not by the Inca.

This little angel is embedded in a rock behind one of the phallic stones. My guess is it was added after the conquest, not by the Inca.

Female fertility stones

Female fertility stones?

Outside the enclosed area are other small outcrops of rocks, which could have been thrones for nobility to sit on, or perhaps had astronomical uses.

Next to the fertility temple is the Chucuito (Catholic) cathedral.

???????????????????????Just outside were a few vendors selling things.


A little boy ran up to us to sell small handmade trinkets. Here Wally gives him a coin for one of them, while Sharon takes a picture.

A little boy ran up to us to sell small handmade trinkets. Here Wally gives him a coin for one of them, while Sharon takes a picture.


OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel, our tour company) is big on “discoveries”. Everywhere on this trip, we stop to experience things you might miss if you don’t pay attention, short bus stops to look at something different, basically anything not related to our main destination.

Our first discovery on the way out into the rural area was along the road where two heads had been sculpted into the rock on either side of the road. They were of Manco Capac (first Inca) and Pachamama (Mother Earth).


View of Lake Titicaca along the road near the carved heads.

View of Lake Titicaca along the road near the carved heads.

We then continued out into the countryside, with miles and miles of farmland and small villages. People were hard at work herding sheep and cows, threshing and winnowing grain, or cooking potatoes in their fields in conical shaped mounds made of clods of baked earth, into which they put a fire, fueled with reeds of the same kind used on Lake Titicaca (“totora” reeds grow abundantly there). We later found out how this is done.



Finally we stopped in the middle of farm fields to take pictures. Some people bury their dead in the field and  grave markers delineate the edge of their property.


Some people don’t like having their picture taken – we even saw a clump of four schoolgirls who ran to hide their faces against a building as we passed so we wouldn’t take their picture. I remember learning once that some people think you capture their soul when you take their photograph, and I was a bit reluctant to take pictures, even though I wanted to.  I tried to be discreet and also selective, asking myself, is it interesting or unique?

Me posing with a farm woman in typical dress.

Me posing with a farm woman in typical dress. Note the “bowler” style hat, adapted from the British in centuries past.


Edgar and Boris were talking to a woman and we were told it was OK for us to take her picture if we gave her a tip. Several of us posed with her. She was shy at first, but friendly, and introduced herself as Lidia. She called her children over, who were herding sheep. She has six children but the oldest is away at school. Her 9-year-old son, Alex, came over, and she called her younger daughter, but the child instead ran inside the house.


However, she soon reappeared wearing a colorful new hat that single girls wear. It is made to resemble the national flower “kantu” or “kantuta”. It has a scalloped brim and falls down the girl’s back, and is knit in many beautiful colors.

Silvia and Alex pose for pictures.

Silvia and Alex pose for pictures.


Kantu flowers

Kantu flowers

Kantu flowers

 The little girl’s name was Silvia and she’s six years old. There is another sister too, but she stayed in the field.

A boar nuzzling the ground for food.

A boar nuzzling the ground for food.

Lidia invited us in to see her home, but we stayed in the courtyard, onto which face 3 rooms, the kitchen on the left, and two bedrooms (front and right), one for the “family” and the other for the “children.”

???????????????????????????????????Lidia, Silvia and Alex next to their house.  ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????


Apparently this was a spontaneous visit – Edgar and Boris had never met these people before, but now they have established a contact and may be able to use them for other OAT tour visits.


Our next stop was to climb up a steep and rocky hillside! I took my bag with me this time, because we were going to spend 45 minutes there and I figured there’d be people to give tips to, or something to buy.  I often had to stop along the way up in order to catch my breath – the climb was steep and the air thin at this altitude of 13,000 feet!

We climbed a hill to arrive at this spot from which we can see the lake.

We climbed a hill to arrive at this spot from which we can see the lake.


797 At the top, I reached the stone arch that stood there and the sight below was absolutely gorgeous – Lake Titicaca shimmered dark blue below us, with features of islands and peninsulas, as well as a distant line of snowcapped mountains!

Charley is standing next to the arch, at the top of the path.

Charley is standing next to the arch, at the top of the path.

The farms are traditional, operating much as they have for centuries, but today there is evidence of electricity.

The farms are traditional, operating much as they have for centuries, but today there is evidence of electricity.


On the way down, people were gathering to take pictures and to listen to Edgar explaining the geography. He used a stick to draw on a flat slab of rock and small stones to mark important places.

 He made three connecting circles, the largest being in the middle. This represented Lake Titicaca. The smaller circles on each side were bays bordered by peninsulas. He put a small stone on the near side of the small circle on the left, to mark where we were. In this small circle, he placed a stone to represent the Uros Islands, which we will visit tomorrow. The people who live on these floating islands speak Aymara.  On the southwest side of the large circle (the main part of the lake) he placed another stone to represent Taquile Island, which we’ll also visit tomorrow, where the people speak Quechua.

Diagonally across the middle of the large circle he drew a line to mark the boundary with Bolivia. (Boris had said the lake is split between the two countries – Peru has the “Titi” and Bolivia has the “caca”!). Finally he placed two stones side by side in the smaller circle on the right (in Bolivian territory) which represent the two sacred islands of the Incas, the Island of the Sun and the Island of the Moon. According to the Inca creation story, these islands gave rise to the origin of their people.

 Along each side of his rudimentary lake diagram, Edgar drew a line. The line closest to us represented the Western Range of the Andes, and the line on the far side of the lake was the Eastern Range. The two lines met north of the lake at the Continental Divide, the mountain pass which we had crossed on our bus ride from Cusco to Puno at La Raya. About five rivers empty into Lake Titicaca, but only one river empties the lake into the Pacific Ocean. North of the Continental Divide, rivers that originate in the Andes empty into the Amazon.

 Boris had told me about a peak in Bolivia that can sometimes be seen from Lake Titicaca, the second highest peak in the Andes, called “Illimani”. It means “the light of the world.” So I now understand the name of the Chilean folk group that I have always liked, Inti-Illimani: “Sun, the light of the world.”


A colorful rooster wanders among the rocks and grass.

A colorful rooster wanders among the rocks and grass.

 This donkey stands in a field, while in the distance, Lake Titicaca glistens in the sun.

This donkey stands in a field, while in the distance, Lake Titicaca glistens in the sun.

 A group of peasant boys

A group of peasant boys

 I think they're playing marbles. One of the boys wears a traditional cap for single young men.

I think they’re playing marbles. One of the boys wears a traditional cap for boys and single young men.

 Edgar’s diagram and explanation was a good introduction to orient us about Lake Titicaca. We continued our descent to the fields and roads below, where our bus was waiting.

NEXT: In the afternoon, we have lunch and spend time in a rural village.

Peru 2008: Cusco to Puno

(It’s been quite awhile since I’ve updated my Peru journal. I hope to finish it in this round of posts!)

July 2, 2008

Today we separated from the few people in our group who ended their trip at Cusco. They departed by air for Lima, while the 12 of us remaining proceeded by bus toward the south, to Puno and Lake Titicaca. Along the way we stopped at the town of Urcos as well as the ruins of Rumicolca and Raqchi.

View from highway south of Cusco, with the mountains reflecting in the still lake below.



The pre-Inca ruin of Rumicolca was constructed by the Huari people. It was used for defense and marked the southern border of their empire.  The Incas later used it as a checkpoint to regulate the flow of people and goods into the Cusco Valley, prohibiting anyone from entering or leaving via Rumicolca at night.

The Incas improved on the Huari stonework and the gateway still stands, with a height of up to nearly 40 feet.


?????????This side shows the Huari construction.

?????????The Incas fortified this wall with their typical tight-fitting smooth stones.


The word Rumicolca comes from Quechua and means, roughly “stone deposit.”


On this facade are the notches typical of so many Inca constructions.




On the road again: A brief stop for a photo opp: Laguna de Urcos.???????????????


This cross was adorned with a colorful cloak – I noticed another one much like it in the town of Urcos. It seems to have been done in celebration of something, possibly the recent Inti Raymi festival.

Shortly after that, we arrived at the small town of Urcos, where we stopped to stretch our feet and look around.

?????The main square of Urcos.

??????????????I was fascinated by this colorful mural.

???????????????????????????????????The cathedral of Urcos, seen from the back.

?????????????????????????????????????A herd of sheep being driven through town.

????????????This taxi driver offers a prayer to “Sr, de Huanca”, probably a local saint.

????????????????????Small market place, another mural in back.


Raqchi was our next stop. This is a much larger site than Rumicolca. It is important because it was a large temple built to worship Viracocha, the creator of the world in Inca belief.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? 729The archaeological site of Raqchi abuts a town by the same name, and surrounding the ruins are farmlands.

Each section of Raqchi has its own function. The two photos above show the central wall of the temple, and is flanked on each side by a row of eleven columns.  In the central wall are doors and windows to allow worshipers to pass through.

730These remains would have been columns which held up the upper roof of the temple. This massive temple is thought to have been 2 stories high and measures 302 ft. long by 84 ft. wide.

736Close-up of a reconstructed column. Note the niches in the wall behind it. At Machu Picchu we were told these niches may have been used to hold religious objects.

The foundations of the wall and the columns are classic Inca stonework, about 13 ft. high, with the rest of their height made of adobe.



732On the other side of this striking trapezoid doorway, rooftops of current Raqchi inhabitants’ houses can be seen.  The tradition of pottery making is carried on by the villagers of Raqchi today.



737This could have been used as an attachment for a roof support.

Adjoining the temple were living quarters and storage areas.







741 ?????????????????????????


The round structures, called “colcas” were used to store grain.

???????????????????????????  The ancient inhabitants’ irrigation system. We’d seen others like this, most notably at Ollantaytambo.

There is a low outer wall beyond the farm fields. The flat area in between may have been a large plaza, perhaps for an overflow of worshipers, perhaps for large ceremonies.

With the people of Raqchi living and working here among these ruins today, descendants of the ancient local people, the Cana, as well as the Incas, there is a continuity and a connection between those who occupied this space before and those who occupy it now. The structures are no longer used as a temple, but the local people have left everything as it has been, tending their crops and herding their sheep among the ruins of ancient walls and a long-gone culture. They continue making pottery and undoubtedly farming was the livelihood of most of the local Cana people during the time of the Inca empire. Of course, tourism is an important means of income for these people, but culture lives on, however fragmented, in the language and customs of Raqchi village today.


Farm fields.



Local woman carrying a bundle of dried plants.


Grazing sheep


?????????????????????Wheat field

On the edge of the community is a marsh, with its own wildlife:




We continued climbing on the drive  toward Puno, evidenced by nearby snowcapped mountains. Ancient glaciers carved this landscape.



At the top of the pass, vendors sell a variety of arts and crafts made by local people to the tourists who come through on buses.


Members of our group waste no time in joining the throng.??????????????????????????????????????

Next stop: PUNO, our destination for the next few days.

Carefree: Weekly Photo Challenge

Carefree to me means summertime, when the warm weather allows you to walk barefoot in the grass, when you can wiggle your toes in the sand at a beach, when you can have your morning coffee outside on the deck instead of inside.

Carefree, to me, is Hawai’i.

Animals can be carefree too, and playful.  Here are some carefree birds in Hawai’i who seem to be having fun, not a care in the world.

This peacock is very calmly crossing a parking lot, not a bit worried about being surrounded by cars – probably used to them.


These guys look like they’re doing a little dance as they walk… They are called gallinules or ‘alae ‘ula, a native endangered Hawaiian species.


We felt carefree, too, in the laid-back atmosphere of Hawai’i.  Here is my husband, Dale, relaxing on  the verandah behind our room on Maui after a great breakfast of leftovers from the night before…

June-Aug 2009 285

I find, though, that pictures of children best convey the idea of carefree:



Fun with Grandpa


Winter fun


Birthday boys…


Texas Journal 2013 – food trailers, barbecue and ice cream

In Austin, one of the first things I noticed was the ubiquitous food trailers. I even saw a food court that was all trailers! These places seem temporary, but in fact, they’re not. With pretty much year-round warm or hot weather, tables with umbrellas set up around the trailer are popular places for people to eat and hang out. Sometimes there are musicians for entertainment!


And of course, you can’t go to Texas and not sample their famous barbecue! My friend who lives in Austin had a place in mind, Franklin Barbecue – very well-known, but it was closed. Fortunately, she knows a food critic at one of the local newspapers who recommended an excellent place : La barbecue. We were warned that the place is so popular that people start lining up in the morning: their hours are listed as “11 a.m. until sold out” – which can happen quickly! So we got there early and took our place in the queue – and were not disappointed! Barbecue beef brisket, pork, chicken and sausage all came with our order, which we feasted on later that day. I tried other barbecue places after that, but none could compare with La barbecue! (Check out their web site at

Of course, there is nothing better during a hot day of sightseeing than a break at a well air-conditioned, delicious ice cream place! Amy’s Ice Cream has several franchises in the Austin area and a few other cities in Texas, but it’s a long way from the Midwest! At Amy’s, you choose from a variety of ice cream flavors, 085 amysicecreamincluding traditional vanilla and chocolate, to tropical fruit flavors, to ice cream with liquor in it. Their ice cream is at least 14% fat, but they also have frozen yogurt and ices. Next you choose what to put in it: the counter is lined with a variety of “crush’ns”, including peanuts, cookie pieces, M&M’s, tiny pieces of cut up dried fruit, candy, and many others. The servers put your scoop of ice cream on a cutting board, where they flatten it out, then fold in your choice of additions, mix it together and serve it in a cone or a cup. If desired, you could choose to make your concoction into a hot fudge sundae, with whipped cream and a cherry on top. (Amy’s web site address is:

Weekly Photo Challenge: One shot, two ways

Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay, Wisconsin is a beautiful setting, with animals to see and trails to hike on. One area contains a lake with waterfowl, mostly ducks and Canada geese. The first photo is of the cattails that grow along the edge of the water. Cattails provide food and shelter and are an important part of the ecosystem which they occupy.


The second photo focuses on the flowering plant that can be seen in the background of the first picture.

This plant is called Loosestrife, which is an invasive species and rather aggressive. It has no value in this ecosystem and park personnel fortunately keep it in check. Although it has pretty flowers, it does not provide the ecosystem’s fauna with food or shelter.